Born at Harrow-on-the-Hill near London, Elisabeth Lambert was the second of three daughters of a marine salvage engineer. When she was eight the family went to Jamaica where she developed her life-long love of Caribbean food. They then moved on to Sydney, New South Wales, where Lambert worked as a journalist and broadcaster. She started as a court reporter on a Sydney newspaper. Her first marriage was to (Robert) Patrick Terpening, an Australian artist who joined the Royal Australian Air Force and died on active service while based in Britain in April 1945. The following year Lambert embarked on a brief marriage to Thomas George Dole, an Australian returned prisoner of war.
The decade in Australia was pivotal to Lambert's development as a serious writer with three volumes of poetry published before she was thirty. Lambert became a distinguished theatre and literary critic and acted as the Sydney representative of the avant-garde Melbourne publishing house, Reed & Harris. Lambert contributed verse in the 1940s to such periodicals as Meanjin, Southerly and Angry Penguins and was the 'ghost writer' of Mo's Memories, the story of comedian Roy Rene (1945). Lambert's verse plays were performed on ABC Radio and by small theatre groups. In 1944 she edited an Australian issue of the American poety magazine Voices : A Quarterly of Poetry with the American poet and serviceman, Harry Roskolenko, who became her lover and displaced his compatriot, Karl Schapiro (qq.v.) in her affections.
Lambert and Roskolenko published a wide range of contemporary Australian poetry in Voices, relying on suggestions made mostly by Max Harris (q.v.) from which to select for the magazine. The most significant aspect of the selection was the inclusion of three Ern Malley (q.v.) poems. Just as Roskolenko was preparing to depart for New Guinea in July, the Ern Malley hoax broke in the Daily Telegraph. Harris called for Roskolenko to publicly state his position and he and Lambert jointly wrote 'The Moustache on the Mona Lisa' for the next issue of Angry Penguins. It weakly concluded that 'too many of [the poems] are too good in themselves' to be discarded, but the authors 'are the vulgarians'. Lambert went on to arrange the publication of the Ern Malley poems in John Lehmann's New Writing and strongly defended their quality.
Leaving Australia in 1949, Lambert returned to England where her play 'Storm's Abatement' was produced at Watergate Theatre, London. At this time she joined the staff of Women's Own Magazine as feature writer and film editor. Lambert continued to contribute to periodicals and also wrote scripts for radio including a verse drama. In 1951 her thriller, The Sleeping House Party, was broadcast by the BBC. In 1954 she published a fictionalised account of her family's time in the West Indies, Father Couldn't Juggle. Roskolenko persuaded her to join him in New York, and she arrived there in 1951. She joined the United Nations as a journalist and met, and married, the chief of radio, the American-educated Mexican, Cesar Ortiz Tinoco (1915/16-1991) from a military family. She loved him, but continued to see Roskolenko in secret.
Lambert immersed herself in Mexico's rich culinary tradition and published cookery books under her married name, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. She realised a career as a professional cookery writer was possible and benefited from the backing of the two power-brokers of the American cooking scene, James Beard and Craig Claiborne. Her books included The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking (1967), followed by The Complete Book of Latin American Cooking (1969). As the Ortiz's travelled further cooking books resulted: The Complete Book of Japanese Cooking was published in 1976. Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz was now a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, and she became a consultant editor for the Time-Life series on 'World Cooking', overseeing the Mexican and Latin American volumes. By 1981 she had produced Cooking With The Young Chefs of France.
When Roskolenko was dying from prostate cancer, Lambert Ortiz spent considerable time with him, unknown to her husband. With his death, she persuaded Ortiz to retire to London. She settled at Ealing, where she continued to write for Gourmet. She also helped to publicise the Relais Chateau hotel group, and she produced more books - among them were A Taste of Excellence (1986), about young British chefs; From the Tables of Britain (1986); and The Encyclopaedia of Herbs, Spices and Flavourings (1992). With the death of her husband in 1992 Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz returned to New York. She had a child who had died early in life.
(Major source: Nan Bowman Albinski, ' "Greetings to the Angry Penguins": Ern Malley, Harry Roskolenko and USA Connections', Australian Literary Studies, 17.3 (May 1996): 293-299; Elisabeth Lambert The Sleeping House Party (1951); Paul Levy, 'Ortiz, Elisabeth Lambert (1915-2003)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; 'Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, Cookery Writer, 1915-2003', The Telegraph (London)16.12.2003).